Manufacturing Preferences: The Media as Manipulator

2:52 AM / Posted by Harry McEvansoneya / comments (4)

It is a bizarre habit of human beings, and one that seems to repeat itself time and time again, that whenever we create something to act as a facilitator for our desires, it ends up shaping them. The slave becomes master and the technology, organisations or frameworks we create ultimately seek to become self perpetuating in order to maintain their relevance within the world through manipulating what it is that people want, rather than simply providing a service.

This spans across an almost universal set. On the basic level, something as simple as money, created to better allow economic interaction, became the basis for economies in and of itself. The internet, designed to allow us to access information, has become a bombard of advertisements and offers, trying to get people to purchase or engage in certain things. Facebook, recently, has been the centre of controversy over its sudden and overbearing attempts to pressure its user base into engaging with advertisers (and indeed, when people don’t respond to this, simply ripping away privacy protections – though that is a separate issue). More tellingly, even political parties have fallen into this paradigm, trying to lead electorates to follow their policies rather than trying hard to genuinely represent what people actually want.

However, where this attitude is most significant – and possibly most harmful – is within the sphere of the news media. When it comes down to the institutions that are supposed to be the distributors of information, entering into a paradigm of trying to manufacture opinions through the abuse of fact is something dangerous, deplorable, counterproductive and yet utterly, utterly ingrained within our society. Media has ceased to be, if it ever was, about the satiation of the desire of the public to be informed about the world and is now about the bottom line – how many copies you can sell, how many advertisements you can carry, how many people will pay to use your website and so on – essentially, the maximisation of revenue.

This is incredibly dangerous for the simple fact that more or less all information, regardless of the source, is in some way, shape or form, delivered to the public at large through the filter of some kind of media organisation.

This takes three forms – firstly, through the moulding of viewpoints of readership, secondly through affirmation of the biases they have created in or are already held by those they distribute information to and thirdly – and perhaps most sinisterly – through a system of news creation, whereby the media doesn’t report on or look into events, but actively causes them to happen so it has something large, flashy and scandalous to write about and sell their product with.

The first is the most obvious. Almost every news source – the exceptions being the state-owned ones in Britain and Ireland – have naked and obvious institutional biases that in general they make little attempt to hide, happily running articles designed to lionise those who support their agenda and demonise those who oppose it, prioritising “issue” stories over “event” ones that allow them to cast everything through a filter, coming out in favour of certain political parties and generally looking to tie negative events back towards whoever or whatever person, organisation, institution or cause they don’t like or want people to like.

The fact that this bias is clear insofar as opinion columns go doesn’t make it any less insidious, especially because it is also present in a big way in the supposedly factual reporting that media sources are supposed to engage in. This fusion of information and opinion is something worrying and insidious, as it encourages events to be seen in light of a certain worldview rather than be analysed by each individual, whereby conclusions are drawn for the audience rather that allowing them to draw their own. In this way, the primary goal becomes not to inform people of what is happening, but to use what is happening as a tool to make people think in a certain way and assume certain inferences to be true.

So why do media sources do this? It’s not for it’s own sake – news sources are not by default evil. Obviously, there is the issue of news sources trying to get their owner’s interests preserved, or viewpoints expanded. If you had the tool to make tens of thousands agree with your politics, it’s fairly natural that you would take it as that is probably going to benefit you in terms of social or political impact, as well as provide you with significant influence over events.

In addition to this, and this is the second form – the idea of re-enforcement and affirmation, which ensures people will keep reading and keep buying your product. Once people think a certain way, either through media sources or their own conclusions, it’s much easier to provide people with affirmation from what they perceive as an authoritative source than it is to suggest they are wrong about something, even when they are.

On a simple level, people like to be told they are right, especially by authority – it makes them feel as though they have significance. Similarly, people react poorly to authority sources telling them they are wrong and try to manipulate it mentally so that they are actually right and the authority wrong – see the deep resonation of the bizarre demonisation of “elitism” within American politics, which is increasingly creeping into Europe.

People are drawn to media sources that they seem to agree with. The biggest selling newspapers in Britain and Ireland are those who engage in populist reporting, telling people what they want to hear and setting things out in broad, un-nuanced terms. This is the tabloid media, where everything fits into three categories – right, wrong and tits. Treat your readers like utter cretins, tell them what they want to hear and tell them they are great, while pushing whatever your agenda is. The system is at its most naked and in-your-face here, but the same categorisation is essentially true of most media sources, where political bodies or causes are set up as being bogeymen, heroes or women – this is what shifts copy. Blast the EU, back Britian and throw in a few random pictures of Carla Bruni wherever France is mentioned and you essentially have the level of sophistication on display in the Sunday Times’ coverage of European affairs.

These first two issues are two sides of the same thing. Identify a demographic in line with your interests and appeal to their beliefs by re-enforcing them and encouraging them to harden, by painting them as absolutes and relevant to everything, that every event should be viewed in terms of them. The follow on from this is that when new issues arise, they can be integrated into this, and the readers who already trust you since you agree with them, will be much more open to suggestion on these issues. This is not to mention the huge significance of those beginning to encounter news media for the first time, like children growing up, seeing the world for the first time through specific lenses, and are thus more likely to fall into the cycle of affirmation outlined above.

This explains the uselessness of the so-called “independent media”, which like commercial media acts to confirm the pre-suppositions of a certain social group, and to spread the agenda of those behind the source, getting the influence and readership without necessarily profiting – though it shamefully claims to be above this level of exploitation which adds gross hypocrisy to the accusations that can be correctly levelled against it.

However, what truly exemplifies the manner in which the media has utterly abused its role and become an agent for change with agendas, self-entitlement and a general disregard for actually keeping people informed rather than pursuing its own ends is the third initial form, the habit of news manufacturing that so many sources seem more than happy to engage in. This comes in three main ways, all of which are reprehensible abuses of the position held by the media in society.

The first of these is hugely indicative in terms of the sense of undeserved entitlement felt by the media – and that is the tendency of media sources to use themselves as news and as part of the news story. How much is it we hear about the travails of specific journalists, reporters and analysts? How much coverage becomes about personalities, about what the person employed by the media will do next, rather than about the story they are supposedly covering? Sky News provides in Adam Boulton perhaps the best example of a supposed journalist who seems to dearly wish he was a talk show host. The message is clear – who cares what is happening?

What you should care about is what Boulton says about what is happening, and how he reacts to the individuals involved. And heaven forbid that he and his ilk are ever questioned – else they will be outraged as to why you are not co-operating with the great Boulton, and why you are trying to push him off centre stage. Similarly, I recall his colleague Kay Burley, who possesses similar desire for self-aggrandisment, physically assaulting a reporter who had the temerity to arrive ahead of her in a media scrum.

The reporting and coverage of the story become the story, the lengths to which the media go to cover a story is extensively reported on in the media itself, and if a challenge is made to that limelight-hogging, you can be sure that the response will not be pretty.

Secondly within the idea of news manufacturing is the actual creation of stories where there are none, often through what can only be described as entrapment. This is some kind of deformed progeny of investigative journalism that has somehow slithered into acceptability, whereby rather than actually looking into events that may be happening, it makes them happen. This is all kinds of morally questionable, not to mention that is has devastatingly negative effects on what were, until the media became involved, frequently legitimate organisations or causes.

In recent weeks, there have been two examples of this that received astonishing coverage, not just in the two papers responsible for them, but all across the media – the stings executed on Lord Triesman by the Mail on Sunday and on Sarah Ferguson by the News of the World. Ignoring the fact that these should by all rights be two utter non-stories, that people only care about because the media whipped them into a frenzy over them – that a minor lord expressed paranoid thoughts in what he thought was a private conversation and that a former royal is not very bright and desperate for cash (not to mention the implausibility of a scenario where anyone would be willing to pay £500,000 for an interview with Prince Andrew) – there are huge problems with both that apply to similar stories.

What on earth is there to suggest that Ferguson would ever have actually acted corruptly? Once the money was placed in front of her, at that particular juncture (bear in mind that she is hugely indebted, which the News of the World, exploitive as they are, can scarcely have been ignorant of), she did – but would the money have been there otherwise? Would she have acted in this way if not for the encouragement provided by the so-called journalist masquerading as a businessman? Would she act this way at a future point if her finances recover – which is unlikely if these scandals keep ruining her attempts to recover her reputation? All of these are unknowns, and it is reprehensible of the media to provoke action in this way. The only outcome of this has been her personal reputation being damaged – all to get a bit more publicity and sales for a tabloid rag. This is cynical and no more than the media taking advantage for their own ends, regardless of who gets hurt.

The Triesman incident is similarly unethical. Frankly, in private, Triesman can think the Russians and Spanish are bribing officials all he wants. He can think that the Russian World Cup bid is, in fact run by unicorns from the centre of the earth. None of it matters unless it actually affects how he performed his job as head of England’s World Cup bid – which it obviously was not doing, as if it had, there would have been genuine, not manufactured, controversy due to it affecting his interaction with FIFA and the other parties involved. We don’t even know he thought it genuinely, given the circumstances, what is to say it was not just an idle boast to impress and intrigue the younger woman he was talking to? Yet due to the media’s destructive determination to make stories where there are none, to follow otherwise innocent men until they trip up over the traps laid for them by the media, the whole World Cup bid may well have been ruined – this just to satisfy the vanity of those who run the newspaper and, once again, to shift some more copy, regardless of what is sacrificed in the process of doing so.

The media possess, as we can see here, very little ethical considerations beyond their own self-interest, and yet, due to what was mentioned in the first two forms, people look to them for moral guidance, which forms the third way in which media sources manufacture news. This was alluded to before in this post – this is through the active and overt attempts to shape public opinion. The media is more than willing to fling itself after any campaign that suits the agenda it pursues and that will gain it sales, regardless of the actual truth behind the campaign, or even the harm that may result from it.

Controversy generated by taking a side against the government or similar authority is the most simple and widespread way in which media sources try to do this, again with no concern for who gets hurt in the way. The amount of media sources, that out of this self-interest and out of sheer lazy journalism went and campaigned against the MMR jab is deeply indicative of this, in spite of the fact that this ultimately led to a significant rise in the number of cases of measles in Britain. To make it worse, in an act that would be funny were it not so depressing, many media sources have, in the aftermath of the Wakefield trial, turned around and shamelessly castigated all and sundry – except themselves – for being so suckered into the whole scam.

The media generates these campaigns so it has something to report on. It takes issues and makes them stories, makes facts suit them, gives them exclusive coverage so the audience care, so they turn to the source who have the big issue, who have the inside scoop. They are told to care about this and then through their actions give the media something to report on, which more people will now want to read about and will turn to that media source for. It’s an exploitative and manipulative cycle that effectively gives a tiny organisation incredible leverage over what happens in a country by being able to manipulate large portions of the population.

The worst example of just how scandalously cynically motivated the whole campaign thing is, how it is morally bankrupt and merely designed to lead to self-aggrandisement and what all of the behaviours mentioned in the article actually culminate in is the Daily Mail’s line on the cervical cancer immunisation scheme, utterly disgustingly campaigning for it’s introduction in Ireland and for it’s banning in Britain. Both stances cannot be right – one of those outcomes is going to lead to untold future harm for a significant amount of young girls, either through the increased risk of cancer or through the horrible side effects the Mail claimed. The welfare of these people, these vulnerable people who put their trust in journalists to inform them accurately, is being callously tossed aside, their trust spat upon, in order to stir up things a bit and cause a bit of a fuss so they can sell a few more issues of their newspaper. This is beyond disgusting. It’s a violation of ethics and humanity on a grand scale. This is the action of self-serving, power abusive scum – that being about the kindest thing they can be called – who pass judgement and attempt to dictate societal views on everyone else while escaping scrutiny for their own horrendously irresponsible and materially harmful actions.

I will close with the words of another, since I am having trouble finding my own after seriously considering the enormity of the above. In 1891, Oscar Wilde wrote the following:

“In old days men had the rack. Now they have the press. That is an improvement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, and demoralizing. Somebody — was it Burke? — called journalism the fourth estate. That was true at the time no doubt. But at the present moment it is the only estate. It has eaten up the other three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritual have nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to say and says it. We are dominated by Journalism.”

The fact that this statement is every bit as valid now as it was almost 120 years ago is, to say the least, a damning indictment of how the media has kept society in its thrall, allowing it to pursue its own self-interests, spread its own agenda, and manipulate political and social events with absolutely no meaningful accountability.

Delta Politics

2:51 PM / Posted by David Hartery / comments (0)

A conundrum that faces many household brands is the problem of becoming generic. Once use of a certain brand name becomes synonymous with an item then it cannot enforce copyright for that usage. Google valiantly try to get people to calling searching the web "using Google" instead of "googling it". The Xerox company has consigned itself to defeat in its bid to stop people referring to photocopying as Xeroxing. Any sort of SUV you see in Ireland is referred to as a Jeep.

The movement for change has hit a similar speedbump. The word change is a genericised brand now. The Tories trumpeted "Change" in the recent general election, but what do they mean? A different party in charge? That certainly is a change, but surely is implied in voting for the Tories. So it is an idea of making a tangible difference to every voters life. Presumably a positive change, since all the banners looked so sunny. But how real is change in politics? How do you provide a sense of difference that the voting public will acknowledge to help over come the strengthening "anti-politics" that is gripping everywhere.

What can we do to make politics better? Well, the little formula I posted at the top of the page may be a joke, but it is also a good explanation tool. The ideal political system to enact some form of change. Proportionality, incentives and desire.

As pointed out in a wonderful piece in the Irish Times[1] while there are continued complaints about issues such as the blasphemy law and, possibly more importantly, the rights of the child; there is a massive amount of political apathy towards pushing for changes. Why is this?

Well, I strongly believe it is a lack of accountability for decision making. This blog is supposed to have some public policy leanings and here is the first bit: We need create incentives for free voting. I would be in favour of a right of recall. Not just for politicians caught "with their hands in the till" but for politicians who vote along party lines for things that their constituency deems unconscionable. There was much made of Theresa May's voting record on gay rights (it's not good) but at least such a thing exists. In Ireland it seems that people don't ever stand up for what they believe in, content to obey the party whip. What is the point in proportional representation when it is just proportional and they forget about the representation? Keeping voting records of members of the Dail would be a big step forward, so you could see exactly what your local TDs were voting on your behalf. Yes, it's open to abuse, with racist constituencies holding their TD to ransom in order to extract xenophobic legislation, but I would have more faith in people than to think that would actually happen. Even if it did; that's democracy in action, no matter how base.

Free voting of politicians, with elected representatives doing what they think is right, rather than what the party tell them is a fundamental tenet of republican ideology. The founding fathers of the USA feared partisan entrenchment stagnating politics. Proportional representation is the means by which we get the representation the people want. Only through a combination of the two of these can we get a change that people want and not change for changes sake. The speed bumps that such developments will have stem from the growing anti-politics movement, symbolised by what is below the divide line in my pretend equation. Because such divisions could be harmful to the political system, if left to fester. I think steps need to be taken to increase the credibility of Irish politics.

It may be just a small change in politics, but hopefully if we do have change; we could have useful change in politics. And because the word change has lost all meaning in the modern world (and possibly in that last sentence), perhaps we could call it: Delta Politics.

Finally, on a related note:

Stephen Kinsella, a lecturer in Economics in UL, wrote a paper recently[2], which observed that often constitutional changes lead to suboptimal outcomes. I thought it was extremely interesting and reminded me of a quote from Mary Robinson when she was a senator, regarding Article 40.3.3:

"The basic flaw in this Amendment is that it is so uncertain in its scope and so potentially contradictory in its meaning and so potentially damaging to existing practices in the area of family planning and medical treatment…”
I think that Constitutional reform is something that should be handled with grave respect indeed.
[2] Stephen Kinsella - Does Ireland need constitutional reform?

The Paradox of the American Right

9:07 PM / Posted by Harry McEvansoneya / comments (3)

The United States of America, by and large, is a deeply conservative country by European standards, even in the areas branded by the media as “liberal”. The nation tends to be inward looking, steeped in history and proud of its culture, proud of its success on the world stage and most of all, proud of the freedoms and liberties that are the founding principles of the nation. This is no bad thing in and of itself, but it has led to the creation of an unfortunate political dialogue within the United States, whereby one achieves victory not through rationality, but through using these principles as a weapon, trying to out-blindly-adhere to them more than your opponent without considering why or what they are.

This has become co-opted as the weapon of choice of the political right in America. Since, as I have said, American political discourse tends towards the conservative in general, I should clarify what I mean by “political right”. This is the reactionary, generically anti-government movement, once on the fringes of the Republican Party, that has in recent times been pushing itself to the fore through several different movements. This would include, for example, the extreme libertarian, anti-state but pro-business, religiously minded and essentially nationalist Tea Party and its poster girls Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann, or the followers of the conspiracy-pushing, radically anti-liberal media demagogues Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh. This by no means representative of the Republican Party as a whole, but groups with increasing influence in it, who are in a position to hold sway over the leadership.

The attitudes of these organisations and individuals should be simple – a return to basics, to the freedom, justice and equality they claim to be upholding, to the most basic ideals enshrined in the US Constitution. However, on a number of issues, their attempts to achieve this have taken an utterly paradoxical path, whereby in striking for what they claim to believe in, they are in fact taking retrograde steps, a fact that brings into question whether or not their motives are as pure, noble and representative of the true “will of the people” as they claim them to be.

Let us being with the issue of the First Amendment of the US Constitution. Lest we forget, this basic founding principle of America states that:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

There was a very recent incident where a book discussing teenage homosexuality was banned from a school library following a campaign by an organisation of Glenn Beck supporters,[1] on the basis that it was “obscene and inappropriate”, presumably due to the fact that it invited frank, potentially positive discussion of homosexuality and was thus did not suit their moral outlook.

Yet these groups are among the first people to cry foul and wave around the First Amendment as sacrosanct the moment something comes along that poses a threat to their own capacity to air their moral or political viewpoints – hence the opposition of these groups to the proposals to re-institute the Fairness Doctrine, or the attempts to create campaign finance reform that could potentially limit the potential of candidates to get their voices heard.

Indeed, the Tea Party organisation, and similar, rest their entire ability to do what they do – assemble in what is for the vast majority a peaceful protest, and air their grievances, legitimate or not – on the integrity of this Amendment. Yet they try to cling to their rock while at the same time trying to fling those with differing political opinions off of it.

Not only is this morally hypocritical, it is also a legally incorrect stance – an odd thing to say if these people truly were acting as defenders of the Constitution rather than of their own private morality. The Miller Test, which is used to define whether or not something is legally “obscene” and thus not subject to first amendment protection. To be “obscene”, the subject matter has to meet three requirements:

1. Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,

2. Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,

3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

The book in question, quite frankly, fulfills none of these criteria, so the campaign is wholly without merit in terms of the protection of the the Constitution from erosion – indeed, it is in and of itself and attempt to undermine the freedoms enjoyed by others under it.

To qoute Justice William Brennan’s judgement on the 1989 flag-burning trial, “if there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea offensive or disagreeable.” This is doubtlessly a better idea than the message being sent with campaigns such as the one against this book, which is “it is obscene because I don’t like it”. The political right’s attempts to make the latter true, but only from their own perspective, is a disgraceful double-standard that betrays the paradoxical agenda at the heart of their movement.

This is not something that can be taken in isolation, either – it is symptomatic of a broader problem of double standards within the movement as regards general equality and rights. Whether it be the attempts at re-writing history in schools in Texas to promote and perpetuate a certain worldview, the shouting down of any opposition on populist talk-shows, or even the anti-Obama smear campaign based on his past association with left-leaning intellectuals, there is an increasing attitude that only certain ideas, ones that fall within the range of acceptable to this minority group, should be tolerated in society – which goes against the very core of the principles America is founded upon.


[1] Thanks to Paddy Rooney ( for drawing my attention to this. Follow him on Twitter, he’s excellent.

Proportional Representation in the UK

1:15 PM / Posted by David Hartery / comments (1)

So as some of you already know, I've been running a simulation of what the outcome of the UK election just gone by would have been if, instead of using the First Past the Post system, it had been calculated using the d'Hondt List system.

I have done this on a regional rather than a national basis, mostly because this is how the British do it for the European election and I see no reason to change that. Other options were to do it nationally or county by county, but I considered both to be too time consuming, and I wanted to get this done while it was still highly relevant, rather than a week or so down the line, as well as the fact that I am in the middle of exams.

Regional vote % here: Click on regions to see the vote breakdown.

Current seats (a more accurate map than the BBC's):

The regions are as follows: Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, North-East, Yorkshire & the Humber, North-West, East Midlands, Eastern, West Midlands, South-East, South-West and London.

Northern Ireland

Actual Seats: DUP 8, SF 5, SDLP 3, AP 1, Ind Un 1

d'Hondt: DUP 5, SF 5, SDLP 3, UCU 3, AP 1, Ind Un 1

Under d'Hondt, Northern Ireland's overall Unionist/Nationalist balance remains more or less unchanged. What it does do is redress in favour of the UCU, who failed to win any seats despite getting over 15% of the vote, more than double that of the Alliance Party. This more accurately reflects the SF/DUP balance - indeed, SF were marginally ahead in the popular vote. The two Independent Unionist candidates who did well, Hermon and Connor, would have had enough between them to gain one of them a seat, an list alliance that would to me make sense, the alternative being another SF seat.


Actual Seats: Lab 26, Con 8, LD 3, PC 3

d'Hondt: Lab 16, Con 11, Lib 8, PC 4, UKIP 1

In FPTP, Labour, in spite of losses, still won an overwhelming majority of Welsh seats with just over a third of the popular vote - a microcosm of the situation that frequently emerges in Westminster. The d'Hondt system rebalances this extensively, as it does for the significant under-representation of Tories and, to a greater extent, Lib Dems. Interestingly, the support for UKIP in the south is enough to scrape them a seat at the expense of a 5th one for Plaid. The outcome here is pretty much as close to proportional to the popular vote as possible.


Actual Seats: Lab 41, LD 11, SNP 6, Con 1

d'Hondt: Lab 26, SNP 12, LD 11, Con 10

Like Wales, the biggest party - Labour - benefits disproportionately under FPTP. The SNP, who have the second biggest vote-share but suffer under the system double their number of seats, and there's a massive gain for the Tories, whose votes are not insignificant. The result under d'Hondt gives a better feel for the actual strength of support for the SNP within Scotland.


Actual Seats: Lab 25, Con 2, LD 2

d'Hondt: Lab 14, Con 7, LD 7, BNP 1

Labour dominate most urban constituencies, but their popular vote is around the combined Tory/Lib Dem total, rather than over six times greater than it - something that is again reflected by the d'Hondt figures. The BNP would also win a seat fairly comfortably in this region, and UKIP would only miss out on one by an extremely narrow margin.

Yorkshire & the Humber

Actual Seats: Lab 32, Con 18, LD 2

d'Hondt: Lab 19, Con 18, LD 13, BNP 2, UKIP 1

Labour hold a majority of seats here despite only being marginally ahead of the Tories in the popular vote. d'Hondt shows the source of that - Lib Dems being closed out in a lot of Labour seats, the Tory vote actually being reflected in the FPTP figures. This area is the heartland of the BNP and as such it is unsurprising to see them (and UKIP) claim a couple of seats.


Actual Seats: Lab 47, Con 22, LD 6

d'Hondt: Lab 31, Con 24, LD 17, UKIP 2, BNP 1

Not much different here to the previous two constituencies - a grossly inflated Labour majority due to FPTP, largely at the expense of the Lib Dems and the nationalist parties.

East Midlands

Actual Seats: Con 31, Lab 15

d'Hondt: Con 20, Lab 14, LD 10, UKIP 1, BNP 1

Bit of an FPTP travesty here - in spite of getting over 20% of the popular vote, an increase from last time, the Lib Dems failed to win a single seat in this region - indeed, they actually lost one. That is handily redressed by the d'Hondt system, as is the Tory false majority in the region. The BNP recieved a massive swing in this area, sextupling their vote since last time and as such would win a seat.


Actual Seats: Con 52, LD 4, Lab 2

d'Hondt: Con 29, LD 14, Lab 12, UKIP 2, BNP 1

This area is hardcore Tory and Labour were as good as wiped out here with FPTP, though if it had been d'Hondt they would only have lost one of their seats from last time's FPTP results. This area also swung heavily towards the nationalist parties, which again would have been reflected through the d'Hondt system.

West Midlands

Actual Seats: Con 33, Lab 24, LD 2

d'Hondt: Con 25, Lab 19, LD 12, UKIP 2, BNP 1

The two big parties are both fairly over-represented in this area, which is fixed. Not much else interesting here to remark on other than that even if he had formed a list with every other independent candidate in the area, the Health Concern bloke from Wirral still would have lost his seat.


Actual Seats: Con 75, LD 4, Lab 4, Green 1

d'Hondt: Con 44, LD 23, Lab 13, UKIP 3, Green 1

Conservatives absolutely dominated this area under FPTP and still have a majority of seats under d'Hondt, though their gross over-representation would be eroded, mostly in favour of the Lib Dems. The Greens would comfortably still win a seat in the region, and UKIP would get three, the relatively high number due to the high-profile presence of Farage.


Actual Seats: Con 36, LD 15, Lab 4

d'Hondt: Con 24, LD 20, Lab 9, UKIP 2

d'Hondt far more accurately reflects the relative closeness of the Lib Dem and Tory votes in this region than FPTP does. Other than that it's the same story as it was in the north of England, just with all the parties swapping positions.


Actual Seats: Lab 38, Con 28, LD 7

d'Hondt: Lab 28, Con 26, Lib 16, UKIP 1, Green 1, BNP 1

Labour and Tories are actually very close in terms of vote share in the capital, hence the tightening of the gap between the two under d'Hondt. The three smaller parties gain a seat each due to having plenty of candidates doing relatively well - all three got over 1.5% of the total vote - but no one candidate doing well enough to win in a single region.


Actual Seats: Con 306, Lab 258, LD 57, DUP 8, SNP 6, SF 5, PC 3, SDLP 3, Green 1, AP 1, Ind Un 1

d'Hondt: Con 238, Lab 201, LD 151, UKIP 15, SNP 12, BNP 8, SF 5, DUP 5, PC 4, SDLP 3, UCU 3, Green 2, AP 1, Ind Un 1

The d'Hondt outcome is actually extremely close to being proportional to the popular vote, though the smaller parties still lose out a bit - however they do gain massively compared to FPTP - and the NI parties continue to benefit disproportionately. It is worth noting that these are FPTP figures - if a d'Hondt sytem were to be used, smaller parties would probably benefit accordingly, as there would be less pressure on finding and fielding candidates in all constituencies, and there would be less of an element of tactical voting to keep party X out of constituency Y.

Regardless, on the basis of this simulation I feel the UK could probably do a lot worse than go with d'Hondt.

All original material (c) 2010 Harry McEvansoneya - Any material relied upon is copyright of their respective owners.

EDIT: Was linked to the following on twitter - Graphical interpretation of a few forms of PR and the results under all of them. (cc) oledoe

Actual UK results for comparison:

"Pure" proportional representation:

Spanish system:

German system:

d'Hondt system: (Based on Harry's workings)

Would like to thank @oledoe for these results. Follow him on Twitter if you like these graphs :)

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